The wonderful, infuriating career of the late Orson Welles – actor, director, magician; all three at the same time when it came to getting movies made – is marked by projects that were incomplete or crudely finished by others. Studios took away films such as 1942's The Magnificent Ambersons and 1958's Touch of Evil from him, while latter day efforts such as F for Fake in the 1970s were never quite locked off.
Now, it appears, he may have left a similar situation in his already involved personal life. English filmmaker and theatre director Sir Michael Lindsay-Hogg is reportedly preparing to take a DNA test to determine if he is Welles' son. The rumour has long followed Lindsay-Hogg, whose mother, Irish actress Geraldine Fitzgerald, had an affair with Welles in New York in 1939 while married to Sir Edward Lindsay-Hogg (Michael was born in 1940, while Welles passed away in 1985, aged 70)
Lindsay-Hogg, who directed early promotional works for The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s and went on to work extensively on British television and the stage, wants to settle the matter before writing his own life story.
One person who believes the shared lineage is writer Chris Welles Feder, who was Welles' first child. Her mother, American actress Virginia Nicholson, was married to Welles at the time he allegedly had an affair with Geraldine Fitzgerald, and the two children subsequently grew up as family friends and neighbours.
“My memory is that nobody knows for sure whether Orson was Michael's father,” writes Welles Feder in her just released autobiography, In My Father's Shadow (Random House). “My mother told me that even Geraldine Fitzgerald didn't know.”
Lindsay-Hogg at least had the chance to do most of his work without his parentage in the public domain. A far more famous filmmaker, the irrepressible Michael Bay (Armageddon, Transformers) has been dogged since his Hollywood career began by the belief that he is the illegitimate son of John Frankenheimer, whose seminal work remains 1962's The Manchurian Candidate.
Frankenheimer denied it, and Bay doesn't like to comment publicly, but the two men were introduced at a dinner in the late 1990s (Frankenheimer passed away in 2002) and, in the ultimate Hollywood expression of father-son rivalry both had major releases, each an action-adventure, competing for box-office dollars in 1998, with Armageddon and Ronin (Bay won that battle).
As Rawlston, the magazine editor, says at the start of Orson Welles' enduring masterpiece, Citizen Kane, which was released a year after Michael Lindsay-Hogg was born: “It isn't enough to tell us what a man did. You've got to tell us who he was.”